Photo gallery: Appeal to restore rare church organ

The public are given the chance to have a go on the Aylsham Parish Church organ to raise money for its restoration. Organist Henry Macey.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY The public are given the chance to have a go on the Aylsham Parish Church organ to raise money for its restoration. Organist Henry Macey. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
9:43 AM

The mysteries of a rare church organ were revealed at a fund-raising morning with a difference this weekend.

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Organist Henry Macey, 66, from North Walsham, was on hand to offer advice and play musical favourites in St Michael’s and All Angels Church, Aylsham, on Saturday morning.

Children, adults and grandparents could also look inside the instrument at the many components.

The open day was first main event for the organ restoration fund, which needs £95,000, and sales from a raffle, tombola and cake stall helped raise £550.

Mr Macey, who has been organist and choir director at Aylsham for the past seven years, said: “The organ needs a good clean. It contains hundreds of pounds worth of lead tubing and that is where the cost is because cleaning that is very labour intensive.”

He added: “The bellows are now in a dreadful state causing erratic wind which is why the organ sounds so out of tune. The organ is absolutely filthy and is living on borrowed time. Some £95,000 is required to faithfully restore, without alteration, this fine piece of Aylsham heritage for future generations – not just for worship but for education and arts development locally and beyond.”

It was designed and built by the former Norwich organ building firm Norman and Beard in 1911.

The English blind organist Alfred Hollins, who died in 1942, had some input into the design of the console area, which includes the pedals, three keyboards and 28 stops and pistons that control the sound.

Mr Macey added: “Many similar organs were built in East Anglia around that time but this is the largest surviving one in the country.”

The organ in Cromer Parish Church used to be a similar size to the Aylsham instrument but was rebuilt in the 1960s.

The Rev Andrew Beane, vicar of the church, said it is believed the organ includes about two miles worth of tubing.

It is pneumatic but electricity is used to run the blower motor in the churchyard which provides air for the organ’s “dynamic range of sound”.

Before electricity was invented, manpower was used to create enough air by using bellows.

Mr Macey said, because of the current economic climate, it was difficult to get money for the restoration fund and, on top of future fund-raisers, grant applications would be made.

Mr Beane said the amount raised from Saturday was “incredible” and that 100 people turned up throughout the morning to look at the organ.

The first mention of an organ in Aylsham Parish Church is in 1506 in the will of priest Thomas Boiler who “bequeathed a pair of organs”.

There were also three organs in the church during the 18th century and in 1853.

A new organ was given by vicar Edmund Yates and it was that particular instrument which was rebuilt in 1911 by Norman and Beard.

To get involved in the fund-raising visit www.aylshamparishchurch.co.uk or ring 01263 732686.

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